The image of Nigella Lawson with her then-husband’s hands around her throat is seared into my memory. If you remember, back in 2013, Lawson and businessman/art gallery owner Charles Saatchi were seated in a London restaurant, arguing, when he placed his hands around her neck as if to choke her. A photographer happened to catch the incident, which went on for close to 30 minutes, as Lawson cried. The fact that it was caught on camera was a rare and disturbing reminder of the ubiquity of domestic violence, even among the wealthy and powerful.
So what are we to think then, exactly, when several artists have created artwork depicting Nigella Lawson being strangled and posted it on Saatchi’s web site?
SaatchiArt.com is a website where artists can sell their work, with a commission going to the site — kinda like a much fancier Etsy. According to the site’s FAQ, 70 percent of the sale goes to the artist.
As the UK’s Telegraph reports, seven different pieces of art depicting Nigella being choked are now all for sale on Saatchi Art. The work above by Daren Udaiyan shows Saatchi strangling his ex-wife; others simply show her with a hand clenched around her neck.
Tasteless? Some might find it that. But I can’t help but wonder if the artists are trying to make a statement themselves about Saatchi’s abusive, criminal behavior by selling it on his website. Charles Saatchi has behaved like a textbook abuser towards his ex-wife, complaining that she didn’t stand up for him in the press, calling the choke hold “merely a gesture,” and allegedly threatening to hurt himself if she didn’t get in touch with him. So the choking art, while visually offensive to some, seems like a “fuck you” statement to me.
For what it is worth, Saatchi told the UK’s Daily Mail that the art will remain for sale. “Would it have been a better story if I had censored artists who work might be personally disobliging?” he wrote in an email. However, it should be noted, Saatchi himself will profit from any sales of the works … so I hope that they attract media attention but don’t actually sell.
Email me at Jessica@TheFrisky.com. Follow me on Twitter.